In Luke 18:41, Jesus asks a blind man sitting beside the road, “What do you want me to do for you?”
For days I’ve read and reread this question. Our friend, who was visiting us for a few days, wondered why I’d written in this blog so much about my struggle to find the “right place” and for me that also meant to even recognize the rightness where I was. I was convinced I needed a platform to do credible good in this world.
Actually I had a “real job” if that means one you get paid for and has actual work you do that you are relatively qualified to do. So, the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” takes on new significance.
I did ask God to do something, for a place—a place to use my gifts—for almost two years. And in my struggle to find a “place” was unacknowledged tension between scholarship and practice; between thinking and doing; between everyday and extraordinary; between faith and “a job;” and between personal (faith/heart filled) writing and scholarly writing. “Between” is a key word here. I thought I had to land somewhere in-between what was my daily work—that I immerse my self into and consciously do some good for the world and get paid for doing –and my longing for being known and knowing God’s presence in that extraordinary everydayness.
In the life I imagined for myself, the academic thinking self would find room and enable (since I had a “real job”) those deeper desires that I couldn’t articulate concretely or tacitly recognize as they emerged. Or maybe you could just say I was simply hoping for a place that was right and good and sustaining and that resting in God’s provision would miraculously make that “place” appear. Nonetheless, I rested only after much anxiousness and striving and not only “after” but in the midst of more striving and wondering. I wrote about and lived that part of the story well.
“What do you want me to do for you?” was never supposed to really be answered.
Lo and behold, I’ve landed in this place that began with the charge to write an essay integrating faith and culture in my discipline. Vocation or avocation? I’m actually not sure of the difference or the fact that there is or should be one. Like Robert Frost, maybe my “object in living is to unite my avocation and my vocation.”
Yesterday I wrote in my morning notebook that our work (leaning into a community) is about furthering or living into the kingdom of God. I can be flexible in how I approach this day knowing I am in the midst of God’s presence and acknowledging and leaning into that presence is my first work. Seeking that presence in all that I do also means surrendering not striving—and I’m still figuring out what that looks like.
One thought on “What do you want me to do for you?”
I like your phrase ” surrendering not striving” – I can surely use that as I understand the “work” I do on a daily basis and the “impact” I hope I am able to do more surrendering and less striving, especially as I become less “able” to strive. But I would hope to do it as a choice as well as simply a necessity. Thanks for making the differentiation between the two. Keep writing – I enjoy reading your thoughts. I’m so excited for your “new” work there in Tennessee.